How to ruin a talk with video

How to ruin a talk with video

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Love it or hate it, I think it’s safe to assume technology is here to stay.  As we process what this means for our talks, presentations, and other situations in which clarity is key, here are five definite ways to ruin a talk with a video clip. (As a point of interest, I wrote this on the back of a church bulletin during the video portion of a talk gone wrong.)

Too much daylight.

This may seem obvious.  However, more than once I have painstakingly crafted a talk around a chosen video, unpacked my youth group’s giant screen, wrestled said screen into an upright position, clicked “play”, and looked at fuzzy shapes wiggle across the screen. I was trying to show a video in a room flooded with daylight.  It just wasn’t possible to see the screen.  I don’t have this problem on my office computer, so it’s difficult to make the mental transition from office computer to Sunday morning service in the light-filled sanctuary.  Implementing a test-run of all technology you rely on is time-consuming, but essential to catching pesky details like whether or not you can see.

No back-up plan if technology fails you.

I’ve done this one too, usually immediately following issue number one.  I spend so much time focusing on how awesome this video is going to be. And then, it doesn’t work.  It’s 10:00am and the heavens declare the glory of God right through our youth room windows, giving way too much daylight.  Or the screen falls over. Or the bulb burns out.  Or I’m logged out of the computer and can’t remember the password for the life of me.  Or I show the video and it falls flat.  Instead of laughter there are crickets.  But I was really counting on laughter. Then what?  Not having a plan B in case your video does not work is a bad idea.

Too dependent on video to make the point for you.

Instead of writing something here, I’ll just tell you to go watch a video.


Frankly, some talks are better without video.  Falling into the “Videos are cool!  Must show video” trap is risky.  You can make an excellent talk lame really fast by trying to squeeze an unneeded video in. To quote my supervisor, Hal Hamilton, “You know your context better than the video does.  A video is aimed at a global context, you know your particular context.”  In other words, sometimes a video doesn’t fit.  That’s ok.  In the words of a globally contextualized Elsa, “Let it go”.

Using an inappropriate clip OR an ok clip from an inappropriate movie.

Anything you show from the front, you sanction. Know your audience and not just the kids in your audience, but their parents too. Are you showing something rife with innuendo to eleven year olds? Don’t. In fact, don’t show innuendo at all.  You can get that anywhere else.  Let’s keep our conversation, including our sermons, noticeably different from school hallways.

Perhaps what you’re showing is clean. No cleavage, no cuss-words, no world view issues.  Maybe it’s the initial council scene of the Lord of The Rings and you plan to talk about how our life with Jesus is a quest, “Though we do not know the way.”

What could possibly be wrong with that?  Maybe nothing. But maybe the parents of the 4th graders in the crowd have worked hard to protect their children from violence.  Maybe those 4th graders come home saying their ultra-cool youth minister showed a clip from LOTR, “So it’s obviously fine, Mom!”

Congratulations. You have now pitted parent against child in a fight it will be very difficult for the parent to win. You don’t want to be that guy.

Videos can be wonderful tools, super lame crutches, even an Achilles heel, depending on how you use them.  Remember, “With great power comes great responsibility”.


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